The word ‘toxic’ has beaten out runners up, including ‘big dick energy’, ‘incel’, and ‘gammon’, for the title of Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year 2018.

Defined by the dictionary as “poisonous; relating to or caused by poison; very bad, unpleasant, or harmful”, the organisation believes the word represents “an intoxicating descriptor for the year’s most talked about topics.”

Justifying its selection in a press release, Oxford Dictionaries said: “In its literal sense, toxic has been ever-present in discussions about the health of our communities and our environment with ‘toxic substance’, ‘toxic gas’, ‘toxic environment, ‘toxic waste, ‘toxic algae, and ‘toxic air appearing as common collocates in our corpus data.

“Even ‘toxic slime has made the headlines – not to mention the continued discussion around the toxicity of plastics.

“But, it’s not just the physical that has been described as toxic this year.  Alongside the literal sense of the word, data shows that people have reached for the word to describe workplaces, schools, relationships, cultures, and stress.

“Politically, the #MeToo movement has shone a spotlight on ‘toxic masculinity while, more broadly, the word has been applied to the environment for debate fostered by the Brexit vote and by the rhetoric of leaders across the globe.

“Online, social media platforms, from Twitter to Facebook, have come under fire for the toxic impact they have on our mental health.”

Contestants on the shortlist, including ‘big dick energy’, ‘incel’, ‘gammon’, ‘overtourism’, ‘techlash’ and ‘cakeism’ were also considered, but President of Oxford Dictionaries Casper Grathwohl argued: “Reviewing this year in language we repeatedly encountered the word ‘toxic’ being used to describe an increasing set of conditions that we’re all facing.

“Qualifying everything from the entrenched patriarchy to the constant blare of polarizing political rhetoric, ‘toxic’ seems to reflect a growing sense of how extreme, and at times radioactive, we feel aspects of modern life have become.”   

Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year in 2017 was ‘youthquake’ while ‘post-truth’ topped the list in 2016. The organisation has selected a Word of the Year every year since 2004, with the inaugural winner the noun, ‘chav’.


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